This History of Number Plates

History of Numbers

History of Numbers

When cars first appeared on our roads, there were no number plates. Cars were few and far between to start with, but as they started increasing in number, there were more accidents on the roads and something needed to be done to identify vehicles. It was pretty hopeless when a witness to an accident simply said it was a black car that had left the scene! In 1903 the Motor Car Act was passed, this dictated that from 1904 all drivers would need a license, and all cars would have to display an identifying plate. The first plate ever issued was A1. That would raise a nice sum at auction these days!

These early plates were all dateless and these days they are very highly sought after, especially the shorter plates. The plates didn’t include any sort of year identifier, they simply consisted of a local council code followed by some random numbers. In the 1950s the numbers started to run out, so the system was reversed. From then on the plates consisted of numbers followed by the council code. However, by the early 1960s, and with the increase in motor vehicle ownership this type of plate had also run out of combinations so a new system was devised that would be more future proof. This new system added a letter indicating the year of registration to the end of the plate. This system continued until 1983 when the year identifier was moved to the beginning of the plate instead.

The most recent change to number plate layout came in effect in 2001. This change came about as it came to light that witnesses to accidents were more likely to remember letters in a license plate than numbers. It was decided that it would be best to put the letters at the start of the plate as this would be the first part of the plate any witness to an accident or incident would see.

To this day, the year identifier remains in our registration plates so anyone can see at a glance how old your vehicle is. This might not be something you’re keen on, but there is something you can do about it. No you don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a prized plate from the early 1900s, you can simply purchase a plate from Northern Ireland! The Irish registration system is different from ours in that even now, there is no year indicator on the plates. We have a massive stock of dateless Irish plates available and you might be impressed when I tell you that they start from just £40!

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